16 Old-School Internet Acronyms: How Many Can You Recognize?

istock/ rebecca o'connell
istock/ rebecca o'connell

How is language evolving on the Internet? In this series on internet linguistics, Gretchen McCulloch breaks down the latest innovations in online communication.

I recently re-read Wired Style, the classic Web usage manual from the late '90s. At the time, it was cutting edge, but it now has a whole lot of words that we don't use anymore. Here are the top 15 of Wired Style's now-outdated acronyms from the early days of the 'Net—how many did you recognize?

1. CHA

No one said early "websters" were always polite. CHA stands for "click here a**hole." And in the '90s, that click might have been on a "hotlink" or "hotspot."

2. AND 3. IOW AND OTOH

"On the other hand," Netiquette was still a pressing issue. "In other words," some people were still remembering to offer their "gigathanks."

4. F2F

People still say IRL, another entry in Wired Style, but we've stopped talking about f2f for "face to face," let alone its synonym, "facemail."

5. LAT

We haven't stopped saying "lovely and talented," but somehow the acronym hasn't stuck around.

6. POTS

Wired Style does also contain an entry for the still-current "landline," but we no longer talk about POTS, short for "plain old telephone service."

7. QOS

If you don't have good "quality of service," you might run into trouble promising "I'll zap you the JPEGs but the message file will be 900K."

8. S!MT!!OE!!!

Complete with gradually escalating exclamation marks, this acronym stands for "Sets! My teeth!! On edge!!!"

9. SCSI

Pronounced "scuzzy," this acronym stands for small computer system interface—the type of port that we used before USB ports.

10. TEOTWAWKI

This ungainly acronym stands for "the end of the world as we know it." In another blast from the past, Wired Style notes that it's "the shorthand of Internet survivalists who believe Y2K spells doomsday."

11. TMOT

"Trust me on this," if you want to maintain your membership in the "digerati."  

12. TTYTT

It almost looks like a modern kaomoji, but this pleasingly symmetrical acronym actually stands for "to tell you the truth."

13. WADR

"With all due respect," no one talks about "meatspace" anymore either.

14. WTFIGO

Oddly, Wired Style contains an entry for "what the f*** is going on?" but no entry for plain WTF.

15. YA

No, it hasn't always stood for Young Adult literature. This acronym used to stand for "yet another": the helpful example sentence that Wired Style provides is "Microsoft released YA browser upgrade."

16. YOYOW

True, perhaps, "you own your own words" (or YOYW, "you own your words"), but thank goodness we're past the days of "cyber-" everything.

Finally, it's almost as interesting to see which now-common internet acronyms Wired Style doesn't include—LOL and ROTFL are present, neither WTF nor OMG get entries.

11 Words You Might Not Realize Come From “Love”

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

1. BELIEVE

In Old English, believe was geliefan, which traces back to the Germanic galaubjan, where laub is the root for “dear” (so “believe” is “to hold dear”). Laub goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root for “love,” leubh.

2. FURLOUGH

We got furlough from the Dutch verlof, which traces back to the same Germanic laub root as in believe. It is also related to the sense of leave meaning "allowance" or "permission" (“get leave,” “go on leave”). The “leave” in a furlough is given with pleasure, or approval, which is how it connects back to love.

3. FRIDAY

Old English Frigedæg was named for Frigg, the Germanic goddess of love (and counterpart to the Roman Venus). According to the OED, frīg was also a noun for “strong feminine” love.

4. VENOM

Venom comes from the Latin venenum, which shares a root with the love goddess Venus, and originally referred to a love potion.

5. AMATEUR

The root of amateur is Latin amare, “to love.” An amateur practices a craft simply because they love it.

6. CHARITY

The Latin caritas, which ended up as charity in English, was a different kind of love than amor, implying high esteem and piety, rather than romance and passion. It was used to translate the Ancient Greek agape, the word used in the New Testament to express godly love.

7. PHILOSOPHY

Greek had another word for love, philia, that—in contrast to agape and eros (sexual love)—meant brotherly or friendly love. It’s used in many classical compounds to signify general fondness or predilection for things. Philosophy is the love of sophos, wisdom.

8. PHILANTHROPY

This one means love of anthropos, humanity.

9. PHILADELPHIA

You might know it as the “city of brotherly love,” but you might not know that the tagline is right there in the name. It’s love for adelphos, brother.

10. PHILIP

The name Philip comes from the compound phil- + hippos, love of horses.

11. ACIDOPHILUS

Have you been taking acidophilus probiotic supplements for digestive health? It’s made from acid-loving bacteria, i.e., bacteria that easily take up an acid dye for viewing under the microscope.

This list originally ran in 2015.

7 Words That Came About From People Getting Them Wrong

iStock.com/maelrenault
iStock.com/maelrenault

People didn't always say pea or newt. These seven words initially started as other words entirely.

1. Pea

Originally the word was pease, and it was singular. ("The Scottish or tufted Pease ... is a good white Pease fit to be eaten.") The sound on the end was reanalyzed as a plural s marker, and at the end of the 17th century people started talking about one pea. The older form lives on in the nursery rhyme "Pease-porridge hot, pease-porridge cold …"

2. Cherry

The same thing happened to cherise or cheris, which came from Old French cherise and was reanalyzed as a plural. So the singular cherry was born.

3. Apron

Apron also came into English from Old French and was originally napron. ("With hir napron feir .. She wypid sofft hir eyen.") But "a napron" was misheard often enough as "an apron" that by the 1600s the n was dropped.

4. Umpire

Umpire lost its n from the same sort of confusion. It came to English from the Middle French nonper, meaning "without peer; peerless." ("Maked I not a louedaye bytwene god and mankynde, and chese a mayde to be nompere, to put the quarel at ende?") A nompere or an ompere? The n-less form won out.

5. Newt

The confusion about which word the n belonged to could end up swinging the other way too. A newt was originally an ewt ("The carcases of snakes, ewts, and other serpents" is mentioned in 1584's The Discoverie of Witchcraft), but "an ewt" could easily be misheard as "a newt," and in this case, the n left the "an" and stuck to the the newt.

6. Nickname

The n also traveled over from the "an" to stick to nickname, which was originally ekename, meaning "added name."

7. Alligator

Alligator came to English from the Spanish explorers who first encountered el lagarto ("lizard") in the New World. While the big lizards were for a time referred to as lagartos, the el accompanied often enough that it became an inseparable part of the English word.

All example quotes come from the Oxford English Dictionary.

This list first ran in 2013.

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